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Unions welcome Thai fisher slavery exposé

Unions welcome Thai fisher slavery exposé

Two international union federations working together to fight appalling exploitation of fishery workers have applauded this week’s exposé by the UK’s Guardian newspaper of the use of slave labour in the Thai prawn industry.

The ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation) and IUF (International Union of Food, Agricultural and Hospitality Workers) are working on the ground in Thailand to fight the slavery being used there. Liz Blackshaw, programme leader for the joint ITF/IUF From catcher to counter initiative, commented: “This publicity is hugely helpful. It will be welcomed by everyone fighting this disgusting human trade. It also shows the need for retailers to audit the entire supply chain to ensure that all products are sourced ethically and responsibly. Consumers deserve and demand transparency and rigorous checking.”

She continued: “There is a dramatic need for action in Thailand also. This was highlighted by trade unions and by human rights and anti-slavery organisations at last month’s Multi-stakeholder Forum on Labour Conditions in the Fisheries Sector in Thailand, held in Bangkok, which involved representatives of the International Labour Organization (ILO), Thai government, fishery industry, international buyers, unions and NGOs. At that forum the ITF informed the government and all stakeholders that it is irresponsible to refuse to ratify ILO Work in Fishing Convention No.188. It is shocking that Thailand’s new military government was this week the only one to vote against a new ILO protocol to fight forced labour.* We would expect the USA to be putting the country in the worst category of its human trafficking blacklist.”

She added: “It is heartening that Norwegian retailer Ica has announced that it is removing scampi linked to CP Foods from its shelves – a move actively backed by ITF fisheries section chair Johnny Hansen of the Norsk Sjømannsforbund (Norwegian Seafarers’ Union).”

The ITF and IUF state that the fishing sector has many dark secrets, not just in Thailand, and there are improvements that could drastically change it for the better. These are:
• Respect for fundamental workers’ rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining for all
• All ILO member states should ratify the new protocol to the ILO forced labour convention
• Full audits by retailers of fishery product supply chains to ensure ethical and responsible sourcing that also meets human rights obligations in supply chains under the UN Guiding Principle on Business & Human Rights, OECD Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises and ILO conventions
• Transparency and comprehensive information on where fish were harvested and the whole chain of processing, to enable consumers to make ethical, socially responsible purchasing decisions
• Ratification and implementation of ILO Work in Fishing Convention No.188
• An aggressive programme of international criminal investigations into criminal activity and criminal failure to act
• Compulsory registration of fishing vessels over 24 metres long or 100 GMT
• Increasing the use of inspectors, including for labour inspections
• Governments establishing tripartite representation in the sector, including oversight of labour standards
• Regional fisheries management organisations and governments leveraging licence allocation and catch quotas against compliance with human rights obligations and labour standards
• Fishing vessels to have a collective agreement onboard to protect crew
• Processing plants to have genuine union recognition and the right to collective bargaining

The Guardian reports can be seen at, and For more about the From catcher to counter programme see



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